An inter-tribal coalition of organizations, led by The Friendship House Association of American Indians, have begun fundraising for what will be the largest urban community space for urban American Indians in the United States. The new cultural hub, called The Village, will be centered in the 16th Street corridor of the San Francisco American Indian Cultural District.
The coalition completed their planning phase in December, and aim to create a “physical, cultural, and spiritual nexus of community services” in the heart of the district, according to a press release. San Francisco is home to approximately 6,000 urban Native Americans, many of whom feel they have been forgotten and ignored over the course of San Francisco’s history and development.
“The Village is a response to tribal communities being forced to relocate in San Francisco, without support, because of government politics in the ’50s and the continuing years of economic inequalities which pressed people to relocate for work” says Judge Abby Abinati, president of the Friendship House Board and Chief Judge of the Yurok Nation. “We have a responsibility [to our Native communities and people] to help them find a homeplace so they may prosper and provide support to each other and our neighbors.”
The Village includes an expansive list of partners, ranging from groups like the American Indian Cultural Center (AICCSF), who strive to maintain native visibility in San Francisco and preserve tribal traditions, to SFUSD’s Indian Education Program. National advocacy organizations like Illuminative are also involved. The full list of organizations involved and community resources provided can be found on the Friendship House website.
First Nations local to the San Francisco Bay Area have undergone a tumultuous and violent history, dating back to the Mission era. In fact, the location was chosen for its historical and cultural significance — especially with regards to the oppressive history of Mission Dolores, where Native peoples were to be converted into “gente de razon,” or “people of reason.” The San Francisco American Indian Cultural District expanded to include Dolores Park last December.
The most recent wave of relocation occurred in 1953, when Congress House Concurrent Resolution 108 moved American Indians off their reservations and into cities. During the same period, economic pressures also encouraged many natives to relocate closer to urban job centers. As a result, many urban American Indian populations have a multi-tribal identity and have a unique political identity of their own. In the years since, urban American Indians in the Bay Area have only continued to lead many political actions to reclaim land and a cultural identity — most famously, perhaps, with the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz that started in 1969. San Francisco, like much of the Bay Area, occupies Ohlone land.
The Village partners have a fundraising goal of $65 million in capital funding to complete The Village by 2025. Philanthropist Kat Taylor has already given The Village a $100,000 grant and has pledged $1,000,000 pledge in collateral for a nonprofit bond. Interested donors are encouraged to contact The Village via the Friendship House.
“The Village in San Francisco’s American Indian Cultural District will be a beacon,” says Taylor, encouraging other big donors to give in a way that maintains Native ownership and control.